HANS BOCK THE ELDER
Oil on Canvas
Inv. No. 2233 (Purchased with funds from the Wirthle estate)
60 × 80 cm
In the late sixteenth century, Basel’s leading wall and panel painter Hans Bock dominated Late Renaissance art production in Switzerland, both as an artist and in his capacity as the founder and manager of a family business. An Alsatian by birth, Bock had presumably received his artistic training in Strasbourg. In Basel he seems to have very consciously associated himself with the tradition of Hans Holbein the Younger. He also had a predilection for complex allegorical depictions, which he enhanced with elements of the international Mannerist style.
The theme of the Venus dance is unique and has yet to be satisfactorily interpreted. In any case, this work amalgamates pictorial traditions of the Fountain of Youth, the Ages of Woman and the Dance Around the Golden Calf. The unusual pictorial idea is typical of both Bock’s inventiveness and the Mannerist outlook. And it is in this stylistic period that the work’s links with the Städel collection are to be found – the links that also made its purchase desirable: the frolicsome mood which informs the figures’ gestures and movements is echoed in the Städel’s brothel scene by the Brunswick Monogrammist, and the eroticism of the nude bodies finds its counterpart in Hans Baldung’s witch painting of 1523.